After long struggle, Casinos finally re-open

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Arial view of a shut down casino and an empty parking lot

Unifor members working in the gaming sector are returning to work this month, many of them after more than a year on layoff.

The sector was among the hardest hit by government-imposed COVID-19 closures. Casinos were one of the first workplaces to be shuttered during the pandemic, and are certainly among the last to be re-opened.

“It has been a struggle for our members working at casinos,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “For most we were able to negotiate benefit continuance, but we certainly recognize how difficult it has been for them.”

From the very beginning, Unifor mobilized to help support laid off members, including weeks of negotiation to win benefits coverage. Unifor worked with the federal government to ensure that COVID-19 programs such as CERB and CEWS were structured to help gaming workers.

Unifor locals also undertook many meetings with local Members of Provincial Parliament while Unifor leaders worked with the Ontario Attorney General’s office and the Ontario Science Advisory Table to discuss capacity for opening.

As a result, local unions and operators collaborated on individual, site-specific re-opening plans, guided by public health experts.

“We never stopped fighting for our members,” said Naureen Rizvi, Ontario Regional Director. “The struggle is far from over as we must continue to ensure members are recalled by seniority and the industry abides by strict health and safety protocols to keep workers and customers safe.”

Casinos in B.C. opened earlier this month and Ontario’s re-opening plans enable casinos to open this month.